Leclerc tops Germany FP3, Mercedes struggles despite lower heat

Charles Leclerc was fastest again for Ferrari in third practice for the 2019 German Grand Prix, outpacing the quickest Mercedes by half a second

Leclerc tops Germany FP3, Mercedes struggles despite lower heat

Leclerc's 1m12.380 second lap, set during his second run on soft tyres, stood to the end of the session and was 0.264s faster than team-mate Sebastian Vettel's best effort.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen split the Ferraris with a 1m12.548s as Mercedes came up short.

Valtteri Bottas was 0.510s off Leclerc's benchmark time in fourth, while Lewis Hamilton finished sixth overall, 0.585s down on Leclerc and slower than Kevin Magnussen (Haas).

An overnight change in the weather as the sweltering heat gave way to thunderstorms made for vastly different track conditions in FP3, with an ambient of 27C and a track temperature that hovered around 40C, well below Friday's peaks.

Even so, there was little urgency at the beginning of the session and 10 minutes passed before anyone set a timed lap.

Any suggestion that Ferrari's relative strength in hotter temperatures might diminish in the cooler conditions was quickly dispelled by Leclerc, who went quickest of all in the initial running with a 1m12.736s he set during a six-lap stint on the soft-compound tyres.

Vettel's best effort on a similar run plan was half a second off.

At this point, both Mercedes drivers were focusing on race simulations but Hamilton set a tidy time of 1m13.463s at the beginning of a 15-lap run on the softs.

Bottas was just over two tenths shy on a similar run plan, although his stint began with an off-track moment at Turn 2.

Red Bull's pace on the medium tyres was very respectable early in the session - or at least Verstappen's was, since his best lap was marginally faster than the soft-shod Hamilton.

Pierre Gasly, whose car was rebuilt around a new tub after his crash in FP2, was half a second adrift of his team-mate after their first runs.

On the soft rubber, Verstappen was even more punchy.

While the Ferraris made incremental improvements on their second soft-tyre runs - Leclerc to the session-best 1m12.380s, Vettel to 1m12.644s - Verstappen split them with his 1m12.548s.

The Mercedes drivers continued to struggle to match Leclerc on their second soft-tyre runs as Bottas circulated half a second off the benchmark lap and Hamilton had a time struck off for violating track limits.

The results of the session will have generated more intrigue for Haas, which is attempting to benchmark its latest developments against the troublesome VF-19's early specification by running Romain Grosjean with its Australian Grand Prix aero package.

In FP2, Magnussen was 1.29s off Grosjean's best, but in Saturday morning's cooler conditions he was initially over two-tenths faster than Grosjean over the course of a similar seven-lap run plan.

He then put in a 1m12.893s that was good for fifth overall while Grosjean finished 10th fastest on 1m13.378s.

Behind Hamilton there was a substantial time gap as the latter portion of the top 10 came up nearly a second off the frontrunning pace.

While Kimi Raikkonen was 'best of the rest' early on, he was trumped by late efforts from Gasly and McLaren's Carlos Sainz.

FP3 results

Pos Driver Team Gap Laps
1 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Ferrari 1m12.380s 18
2 Max Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 0.168s 12
3 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari 0.264s 18
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport 0.510s 24
5 Kevin Magnussen Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 0.513s 13
6 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport 0.585s 22
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. McLaren F1 Team 0.920s 18
8 Pierre Gasly Aston Martin Red Bull Racing 0.944s 17
9 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 0.971s 18
10 Romain Grosjean Rich Energy Haas F1 Team 0.998s 15
11 Sergio Perez SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 1.096s 15
12 Nico Hulkenberg Renault F1 Team 1.116s 19
13 Alexander Albon Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 1.174s 24
14 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team 1.176s 15
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1.291s 16
16 Lance Stroll SportPesa Racing Point F1 Team 1.292s 15
17 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda 1.387s 21
18 Daniel Ricciardo Renault F1 Team 1.436s 20
19 Robert Kubica ROKiT Williams Racing 3.160s 20
20 George Russell ROKiT Williams Racing 3.444s 11

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